it’s nowhere near over

9.7.21 ~ Eastern Point
double-crested cormorant on the rocks

Another nice day Tuesday. After Labor Day the beach is “closed.” No lifeguards, concession stand or restrooms open. Fewer people to navigate through. Great for a morning walk. Got closer to a cormorant than I’ve ever been before, but as luck would have it, the sun was behind him and he came out as mostly a silhouette.

ring-billed gull on the rocks
immature male common eiders in the estuary

The gift for this morning was spotting four immature male common eiders hanging out in the estuary. I’ve only seen a female common eider once, last summer. New England is in the southernmost part of their range. I was enchanted.

A bird of the cold north with a warm reputation, the Common Eider is famous for the insulating quality of its down (typically harvested from nests without harming the birds). Breeding males are sharp white and black, with pistachio green accents on the neck. Females are barred with warm brown and black. These largest of all Northern Hemisphere ducks gather along rocky ocean shores, diving for mussels and other shellfish, which they pry from rocks using long, chisel-like bills. Males court females throughout the year with gentle, crooning calls.
~ All About Birds website

monarch butterfly on the lawn

The coronavirus pandemic rages on, surging especially among the unvaccinated. But the fully vaccinated are getting sick, too, which gave us pause and led to our postponing our trip to North Carolina to see our grandchildren until we can get our third dose of vaccine. We don’t even want to get the “mild” version of COVID-19. We’re back to wearing double masks in the grocery store. And because we’re super cautious we stopped going inside anywhere else. Avoiding crowded outdoor places, too. Masks at the farmers market.

My sister reports from Connecticut College that on Monday, 20 students who were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and some of their friends were tested. Through contact tracing, it was determined that the students who had contracted the virus had been socializing without masks in cars, in friends’ rooms or apartments, at parties or in bars. Tuesday morning the test results showed an additional 34 students had tested positive. All were moved to isolation housing.

double-crested cormorant in the river

Connecticut College requires all students and staff to be fully vaccinated (and to wear masks indoors) so these are breakthrough cases. Beverly spent one week with us but is now teaching remotely from her home and probably won’t be back here for the semester. 🙁 I’m just glad we were able to see each other a few times this summer before this new social distancing period seems prudent. Sigh.

It’s been a while since I’ve made note of our local coronavirus statistics. We have had 3,014 detected cases in our town. Connecticut has had 376,747 confirmed cases and 8,395 deaths. We’re coming close to the 8,500 number of estimated deaths we had in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. On September 8th we had 403 new cases. Overall, 2,368,830 people or 66% of Connecticut’s population has been fully vaccinated.

driftwood caught in the rocks

And now CNN is reporting that 1 in 4 new cases of COVID-19 are in children.

summer’s end

It’s nowhere near over.

Update: As of Thursday 107 students have now tested positive. Many are going home instead of quarantining on campus. Seems like that would not help to contain the spread.

my new molting friend

8.22.21 ~ molting blue jay during Hurricane Henri

At about 4:00 pm the storm started up again, but with lighter rain and wind. I guess it was the eye of the storm we went through. My daughter called from North Carolina and while I was talking to her the blue jay came by for a third time today. This time I put down the phone and picked up the camera and then got back to Larisa, who completely understood her distracted mother.

Turns out the reason my new friend looked so bedraggled is that he is molting!

He seemed happy to pose in one of the arborvitae trees. Then I remembered an experience I had with a blue jay over a decade ago. It had appeared and called outside my window just before I got an unexpected tornado warning. I wrote a post about that here: my first tornado warning!

When my sister called, a little after my daughter had called, I told her about the new blue jay story. To Beverly it was obvious, our mother was looking out for me again. Our mother’s nickname was BJ and she had made the same connection back then in 2010. (Beverly got her own bird visit recently. A cardinal built a nest in our mother’s andromeda bush outside her kitchen window.)

rain from Hurricane Henri

We never lost power and the weather is much calmer. I decided it was safe to take some chicken out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge for supper tomorrow. Since I woke up at 3:30 this morning I’m feeling tired and ready for bed after all the day’s excitement. Good night, dear readers! Thank you so much for all your lovely comments today! 💙

changing forecasts

“Seascape, Storm Breakers” by David James

I was going to post the latest predicted storm track but the the image wouldn’t save for me, so I went to WikiArt to find a painting…

It’s 6:15 am, we have wind and rain, temperature 74°F (23°C), Pressure 30 inHg, wind moderate at 20 mph. The outer bands of Hurricane Henri have arrived. The worst of it for us should be between 9 am and 4 pm. Yesterday afternoon the track started moving east again and when I woke up this morning it had moved again back to a predicted landfall east of us in Rhode Island, just over the state line.

My sister Beverly and I were reminiscing on the phone last night. Back in 1991, when she called our old New England Cape Codder grandparents after Hurricane Bob, Grandfather scolded her for worrying. “This house has been standing here since 1880 and it isn’t about to fall apart now.” He was 86 at the time and taking care of our grandmother, who was quite ill with dementia, at home. It was good remembering his calm and steady approach to life.

If we don’t lose power I will post weather updates from time to time. I think Grandfather would approve! 🙂

shells, seaweed, feathers

6.10.21 ~ herring gull, second year ~ Eastern Point

The morning after the heat wave was over we couldn’t wait to get out of the house and take a walk at the beach. I’m done with hiking in the woods for the summer. I managed to get poison ivy again last week, even after being very very careful on our last ramble. I swear it floats in the air in June. Fortunately this outbreak is not as bad as the one I had last year.

Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.

~ Mary Oliver
(It Was Early)

mourning dove

I was very surprised to see a couple of mourning doves on the breakwater. I’ve never seen them at the beach before. And I only saw the one herring gull, looking like he might be in the middle of molting. Later on the walk we saw an abundance of feathers on the rocks and floating in the water. On this day, too, there seemed to be a colorful seaweed salad floating just under the surface of the water.

growing out of a crack in the rock

The belief that nature is an Other, a separate realm defiled by the unnatural mark of humans, is a denial of our own wild being.
~ David George Haskell
(The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors)

While we were noticing everything and anything in the water we heard a familiar bird call in the distance and then a couple of American oystercatchers flew into view!!! No pictures because they kept flying in circles around the area and whenever they went to land they disappeared behind the rocks. I do hope they are going to make a nest there like they did back in 2014. That was the last and only summer we saw them here. Click here if you’d like to see the pictures: oystercatchers!

The light must have been just right and my arm must have been steadier than usual because for some reason I got some halfway decent pictures of a cormorant. Which isn’t saying much. They’re too far away and have frustrated my attempts to photograph them for years. This one had a bit of a personality and seemed different than the others.

double-crested cormorant

I have started on a new drug to manage my radiation proctocolitis symptoms and am hopeful it will make things easier for me, perhaps even get me to the point where I will feel comfortable traveling to visit our grandchildren. We’ll see. My wonderful gastroenterologist is retiring. 🙁 I will see her one last time in July. She assures me, though, that she is leaving me in good hands.

Had a wonderful weekend visiting with my sister — the talking went on forever. 🙂 I hadn’t seen her in person since December, and that was on a walk outside, six feet apart, and with masks on. What a blessing to lounge around the house and catch up. Living in the present moment.

And the grandchildren are planning another trip up here in August!!!

off the beaten path

12.29.20 ~ cute little sapling
Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, Connecticut

Tuesday we donned our masks and warm layers and headed over to the Arboretum to meet my sister and her husband for our first in-person visit since the pandemic started in March, unless you count video calls and quick verbal exchanges from our balcony to the parking lot. We had planned a “safe” outdoor meeting like this to celebrate Thanksgiving and then Christmas, but rain had spoiled our plans for both days.

Beverly & John, geologist and botanist, know the natural areas of the Arboretum like the backs of their hands so I was anticipating a wonderful guided tour, off the beaten path. It did feel awfully unnatural, though, keeping six feet apart behind masks for a couple of hours, but we pulled if off. It was so good being with them again. We explored the Bolleswood Natural Area.

partridge berry

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. … The fruits are tasteless and generally survive through winter and into the following spring. Birds are the primary consumer of these fruits and the subsequent distribution of seeds.
~ US Forest Service website

Knowing about our recent fascination with glacial erratics, Beverly had a surprise for us, a huge one! Our first glimpse of it is below…

first side
front side

It looks like that rotting tree grew up there and was then snapped down in a storm. But it also looks like humans have moved some wood around, making it look like the wood is holding up the stone, but it’s not. It’s resting on other erratics underground.

other side (Tim is 5’8″)
a close-up from the back
a peek underneath ~ two orbs!

After marveling over this erratic’s size and its precarious perch we continued on. Sometimes there was so much moss along the path it reminded me of a forest in Ireland.

And we finally came to a flooded bog. (The drought is definitely over.) It was beautiful with bits of moss, autumn leaves under the water, partial sheets of thin ice, sticks, and a few remaining plants and grasses.

And then John pointed out a carnivorous plant…

pitcher plant hidden in leaves

The pitchers trap and digesting flying and crawling insects, making the species one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. The hollow pitchers fill naturally with rainwater. The pitchers also have broad lips where insects land. The insects crawl into the pitcher, where stiff, downward pointing hairs prevent them from leaving. Anectdoctal evidence suggests pitchers capture less than one percent of the flies that venture into their traps, but a few insects eventually fall into the water at the base of the pitcher, where digestive enzymes secreted by the plant release the nutrients within the insects. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant, which supplements the nutrients absorbed by the roots.
~ US Forest Service website

pitcher plant

On our way out of the Arboretum we saw…

winterberry aka black alder
oyster mushroom, thanks to Larisa’s friend for the id

It was sad to say good-bye but we were getting cold and so made our way home to some hot tea. Curled up under our blankets, we put on some music and our happy holiday hearth DVD. Very cozy after having rosy cheeks from the chilly air. Maybe we’ll do this again — hopefully soon.

cloudy light, goldfinch, concert

11.27.20 ~ Sheep Farm, Groton, Connecticut

On Friday we returned to Sheep Farm, last visited early in April, so we still haven’t visited when the leaves are green. Maybe next summer on a low humidity day. Autumn colors were still pronounced on this lovely day.

glacial erratics in a golden and russet meadow
very cloudy day
leaf love
struggling to stay green
a burl
beech bark
beech leaf
waterfall from above
waterfall from below
right side of waterfall
left side of waterfall
beech with lichen
lichen on twig
?
loved the contrast between the green and the rusty oranges

Most of the birds we saw were too far away but I finally spotted this goldfinch, perhaps a juvenile or nonbreeding female. I was delighted even if he/she wasn’t brightly colored or willing to come out of the foliage.

American goldfinch
I see you!
loved this spot of yellow in the middle of the browns
telephoto shot of the yellow
?
contrast again between green and straw colors

And then, after such a wonderful day, that night I had a new experience, watching a livestreaming concert on my laptop. It was wonderful!

I’ve been a Mary Chapin Carpenter fan for years. My father introduced her music to me one night when he was watching a recorded performance she had on PBS. It must have been in the late 1980s. My father played the guitar and he and I shared a love of guitar-playing troubadours. He loved Woody Guthrie. I loved James Taylor. We both loved Mary Chapin Carpenter. I started buying Mary Chapin’s CDs and playing them while driving around town in our 1988 Dodge Caravan with our first CD player that came with the car.

my father and me

Then, one day in 2012, I found out that she was going to do a show on September 15 in a cabaret setting at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, Connecticut. Right there in the town where I grew up! But everything was falling apart in our lives at the time. Tim had been hospitalized for several days in August with a cardiovascular event, my failing 97-year-old aunt was being moved from elderly housing into my father’s house, and my father was ill and wheelchair-bound. Even so, Tim and my brother-in-law John held down the fort so my sister Beverly and I could go see the concert together. Mary Chapin talked a lot between her songs about her life and her music and it felt very intimate. It was such an extraordinary evening to share with my sister, who is also a fan.

This concert was special, too, livestreaming with two hours of music, but no talking in between the songs. It must be strange singing without being able to see and get feedback from your audience. Mary Chapin’s voice has gotten deeper over the years but is still beautiful and expressive. I found myself comfy and cozy on the couch, content to be enjoying the unfolding of a new memory.

chickadee memories

image credit: pixabay

Inside their skulls, the sophistication of the neural capacity of black-capped chickadees increases in autumn. The part of the brain that stores spatial information gets larger and more complex, allowing the birds to remember the locations of the seeds and insects that they cache under bark and in clusters of lichen. The superior memory of the birds that I hear in the tips of the fir tree is a neuronal preparation for the hungry days of late autumn and winter. The seat of spatial memory in the brains of chickadees that live in these northern forests is particularly voluminous and densely wired. Natural selection has worked winter into the birds’ heads, molding the brains so that chickadees can survive even when food is scarce. Chickadee memories also live within societal relationships. The birds are keen observers of their flockmates. If one bird should happen on a novel way of finding or processing food, others will learn from what they see. Once acquired, the memory no longer depends on the life of any individual. The memory passes through the generations, living in the social network.
~ David George Haskell
(The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors)

Chickadees were probably the first birds I became aware of when I was a little girl. They frequented my mother’s birdfeeder which was right outside our dining room window. (Our tiny Cape Cod style house didn’t have a breakfast room or eat-in kitchen.) I still remember eating my breakfast at the table in the winter and the cold blast of air that made me shiver when Mom opened the window to spread more seeds out onto the protected platform.

I remember playing out in the snowy winter woods with the chickadee fee-bee song playing in the background. And the well known chickadee-dee-dee alarm call. My father taught me to recognize their warning call, which I often hear out of the blue on our walks in the woods these days. My guess is we might be entering someone’s territory so we respectfully move on quickly.

10.25.15 ~ woodpecker
photo by Tim

For many winters now we’ve been hanging a suet feeder on our condo balcony to attract the woodpeckers I also love. Chickadees hang around and glean the seeds that fall out of the suet while the woodpeckers are feeding. Unfortunately starlings have figured out how to hang onto the suet feeder and they wreak havoc with their large numbers. Why can’t they come one or two at a time like the woodpeckers and chickadees? We also welcome a fair number of titmice, nuthatches and juncos.

Every winter our neighbor complains that the birds poop on his balcony. For this winter I had planned to not put out the suet feeder in the interest of being neighborly but, unbeknownst to me, my thoughtful husband bought a few months worth of suet cakes he found on sale. A woodpecker already came by the other day and was hanging onto the sliding glass door screen, inquiring within about the missing feeder, no doubt. And the chickadees have also been checking out the balcony, it seems to be much earlier than usual this year. I used to put the feeder out mid-October, after Columbus Day. But the fall colors have arrived two weeks early; perhaps the birds are ahead of schedule, too.

Because our neighbor goes out on his balcony to smoke a cigar and the unpleasant fumes come into our unit even when the windows are shut, we’ve mostly ignored his complaints about our bird feeding. Tit for tat. I have a funny feeling my resolve to not feed the birds this winter is crumbling. Watching them brings me so much joy in the winter! Maybe just one more winter, since we are in quarantine? I’m going around in circles weighing the pros and cons… I have to decide now!!!

Wish the bird feeding quandary was the worst of my worries. Connecticut College now has 24 students in quarantine, a cluster of 4 positive cases and their friends. One of the students was in my sister’s class a week ago. All her classes are outdoors and all her students are wearing masks, still, I worry about her safety. It’s a grim feeling, the virus keeps coming closer and closer…

And now our reckless president has tested positive for COVID-19.

under the marsh elder

meadow vole ~ image credit: Havahart®

sitting on the grass
under the marsh elder a
meadow vole scolds me

~ Barbara Rodgers
(By the Sea)

Last week my sister had an encounter with a cute little meadow vole. She’s not a photographer but she’s an excellent storyteller. When she told me the pithy tale I unexpectedly felt inspired to write a haiku.

I used to write about one a year but looking back on the “haiku” tag I discovered I haven’t written one in four years! Hmmmm, wonder what happened four years ago?

a secret garden

“A secret garden. Made by Barbara Lyn (sic) Chomiak. Seven year old.”

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun — which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
(The Secret Garden)

I’m still poking around through my childhood papers and drawings. My mother was the true bookworm in our family. So many images coming back to me now, like my parents in the evening, my mother with her nose in the newspaper and my father watching television.

At bedtime, my mother read to us, even after we were old enough to read for ourselves. One of my favorite books was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (Apparently I loved it so much I illustrated my own version of a secret garden.) And often my father would start playing the piano, gentle Bach lullabies sending us off to sleep.

Spring is in the air! Time to pick up the pace and plow through some more boxes. Onward!